Nestlé UK boss Fiona Kendrick has called on the government to work more efficiently to support UK food companies in their efforts to exploit export markets.

Speaking last week at The Grocer’s ‘How to Export a Brand’ conference in London, the chairman and CEO of Nestle UK & Ireland said the UK, and its food sector, lacked exposure at major global trade fairs in comparison with other European countries.

The UK exported £18.9bn worth of food, drink and feed in 2013, but imported £40.2bn worth of the same goods according to Defra - leading to a balance of trade deficit of £21.3bn - up 6.3% on 2012 figures.

Kendrick, who also serves as vice president to the Food and Drink Federation, said she would like Defra, the Department for business, innovation and skills and its export arm UK Trade & Investment “to work together more effectively to support and prioritise sustainable growth in the food and drink manufacturing industry.”

This would involve greater involvement by the bodies in promoting companies at global trade fairs, and would “enable small and medium-sized businesses to achieve much more in their attempts to export”, she claimed.

The UK currently lags behind the likes of Ireland and Germany for global food exports said Kendrick, which was “largely due to a lack of presence at global fairs.”

She added: “Germany subsidises 50% of all trade show costs and businesses in France and Spain get strong regional funding, which doesn’t exist in the UK.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “We are the biggest champions of British food and drink, we want to see people all over the world buying British. We’ve had huge success - opening up on average almost three new markets every week since 2010, allowing businesses to sell their high quality food and drink from beef to Singapore to porkto the Ivory Coast. We are now in the top 12 global exporters ahead of Australia and Canada with an increase in growth of £700m between 2012 and 2013.”